A Changed Man

4 am, June 14th 2008

A native woman, obviously far from home given her features, tossed and turned in the small cot provided by the homeless shelter people. Her mind was drawn down into a whirlpool of sleep-induced dreams from which she could not escape, trapped as if she was a helpless onlooker. And as certain as a train wreck, something was going to happen.

She was at a tall building in downtown Denver. She thought she’d recognize the building if she saw it again, but she didn’t catch the name. It was night and a man was entering. He had black hair and blue eyes, and wore a zippy suit, the kind that powerful young men wore. Since it was after hours, security approached, checked him and let him through while they exchanged friendly banter. The young man appeared to know the security guards by name.

As he passed through the metal detector, the large, empty frame of the device seemed to stretch and reach out toward the young man as if to grasp him and hold him. The security guards didn’t seem to notice. The young man paused, blinked, then turned to look at the frame behind him, but it had resumed its normal shape. With a shrug and a wave, he proceeded to sign an electronic clipboard the security men gave him. Cerai could clearly see the name he wrote there; Charlie Thomas. The time was 10 pm, June 16th, 2008.

Charlie passed on to an elevator, pressed a button that would send him to the thirty-fourth floor and waited. The doors closed and it seemed to Cerai they did so with an ominous slam. Charlie didn’t seem to notice.

The young man checked his watch as he waited and unknown to him the black dome that covered the security camera seemed to ooze down toward him, reaching for him as if it had a twisted desire to envelop him, suffocate him. The darkness grew larger and larger as the floor indicator announced each passing floor on his way up.

The darkness filled nearly a third of the entire elevator now and while Charlie still hadn’t seemed to notice, the young man appeared nervous and anxious. The door finally opened and Charlie stepped out. He never knew that the elevator doors closed just as the creeping blackness was about to touch him.

Charlie walked down the hall lit by cold, fluorescent lights. The third light flickered and seemed to want to go out. Charlie’s footsteps echoed on the hard surface of the long corridor but he kept walking confident in the familiar surroundings.

And he walked for a very long time. The third time he noticed he passed a flickering fluorescent light he started to worry. He picked up the pace but soon realized the hallway seemed to have no end. He turned to look behind him and saw the hall extended seemingly without end both behind and in front of him. Charlie began to panic. He ran but the merciless corridor would not give him to his destination.

“Mr. Thomas?” A voice said.

Charlie was so surprised, he slipped on the smooth, polished floors and fell head-long into the side wall, then slipped to the floor.

“Mr. Thomas, are you okay?” A heavyset young brunette woman with black-rimmed glasses peered down at him curiously. Charlie looked around and stammered something, but quickly pulled himself together, shook his head and told her he was there to see his accountant, Mr. Stenrud. She smiled and led him to the office door while Charlie stared suspiciously around at the hallway, but it had appeared normal again. There he could see the way he’d come. The elevator was not twenty five feet away. He smiled with returning confidence.

Cerai’s vision did not follow Charlie Thomas into that room. Her point of view remained outside, stuck frustratingly in place as she heard muted voices talking. All around her she saw the spirit world seep into the physical world and warp the halls, the doors, office windows…

And then the screaming began. Then growling, roaring, more screams and the sickening sound of tearing meat and shattering bone. A terrible, mournful howl arose, the glass windows shattered… and a new werewolf began his first, crazed rampage. As her visions whisked her away from the carnage, she heard dozens of voices rise in screams of pain and horror.

Then Cerai awoke from the vision-dream in a cold sweat, panting and exhausted. She swung her legs over the side of the cot, resting her head in her hands as she tried to take slow, deep breaths to slow her racing heart. Instead, she found herself stifling growls and a yearning to howl in reply, giving voice to the echoing screams in her head.

She got up and went to the bathroom to splash some cool water on her face. Returning to her cot, she lay there, staring at the ceiling, unable to fall back asleep. He will go through his First Change in two nights, she thought. I’ll have to find him. Protect both him and the humans who he’ll slaughter. She rolled onto her side. But how will I get him away? Where can I lure him? Can I even do this without exposing myself to any werewolves around here?

When morning came, she was first in line of breakfast, which she wolfed down before heading out into the streets. She had formed a plan in the early hours of the morning before finally falling back to sleep. Search the downtown area until she found the building in her vision, then she’d try to find a phone book and see if a Charlie Thomas was listed. If there weren’t too many of them, she’d try and track them down. If that didn’t work, she’d hunker down and watch the building, and hope to catch him before he got into the building.

She noted that Charlie Thomas didn’t have an office in that building, but the floor she saw him visit in her vision was occupied by a large investment firm. That gave her his reason for coming here. And it also told her he probably had a large amount of expendable cash. Rich, was the word. Unfortunately he also had an unlisted phone number, likely to reduce the number of solicitors the wealthy tended to attract.

Cerai decided that the best thing to do was to study the area to find possible escape routes and then hunker down and wait for Charlie to show up. It would be better, she decided to have some control over his change, so to that end, she would trigger it herself — she hoped. At the very least if she attacked and bit him, he’d likely flee and then she could herd him away from the populated areas to a place he could go through it without tearing up a bunch of innocent people.

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